UP PhD candidate gets the nod for best presentation at national botanist congress

Posted on February 26, 2019

Medicinal Plant Science doctoral student Analike Blom van Staden of the University of Pretoria (UP) was recently awarded for her oral presentation on the effect of rooibos on hypopigmented conditions at the 45th annual congress of the South African Association of Botanists held in early January. This year’s congress was a joint affiliation with the African Mycological Association and the Southern African Society for Systematic Biology.

“Each conference is an opportunity to showcase your research and share your findings with other researchers,” says Blom van Staden. “I am always astounded by how much research is out there and by the beautiful minds of scientists – people who never give up in their search for an answer or, as you eventually come to realise, part of an answer.”

No stranger to accolades, Blom van Staden was awarded  the NRF-DST innovation and priority research doctoral scholarship (2017 to 2018) and a postgraduate doctoral scholarship from UP for the same period. She was also nominated for a Biotech Fundi Award for two consecutive years, and awarded the best BSc honours presentation in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences at the Fanie de Meillon Postgraduate Symposium in 2014.

The focus of Blom van Staden’s doctoral studies, which are being conducted under the supervision of Prof Namrita Lall, is the effect of Aspalathus linearis (rooibos) on hypopigmented conditions, including progressive macular hypomelanosis and vitiligo. Several other disorders may emerge as a result of these conditions, which influence the quality of life and psychological wellbeing of those afflicted. People who live in rural areas are most affected as they often don’t have access to relevant treatments or can’t afford them. An alternative, less expensive product that is readily available and sustainably cultivated, such as rooibos, could be the answer.

“The more you get enveloped by your research, the more you start to doubt what you know,” says Blom van Staden. “Receiving this award assures me that I am making sense, and that gives me the much-needed motivation to keep pursuing answers through my research.”

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